Deaf for a Day

This week, one of my classes will be doing an assignment I call “Deaf for a Day”.

For most, it is a frustrating experience but not for the reasons that you may believe. Most of the complaints that I get from my students are because the assignment cannot be done “totally deaf”. The earplugs simulating hearing loss, simply do not take away ALL the sound. They truly want to try to get a grasp of what it would be like to be “deaf for a day”.

I do everything I can to make it possible (smile), but in the end most experience the day “hard-of-hearing”.

I suppose that most who are late-deafened, have at one time WISHED deafness on someone for a day. Perhaps it was even someone to whom they were close… someone being particularly thick-headed about communicating in a way that made life a little easier. In anger, I’ll admit that I have at times wished “deafness” on someone if only to help them understand what my life was like… to experience the frustrations I live.

In truth, I will admit that I do not wish deafness on anyone. I do not wish it on anyone who was born hearing. I have Deaf friends who were born Deaf and are accepted into the Deaf culture and community. They fully utilize ASL as well as fully experience life. When you are born with normal hearing, however, deafness is not something one becomes accustomed too quickly… nor easily.

Many think that becoming deaf means that voices are no longer heard. Certainly communication is one of the more frustrating things a late-deafened person experiences. And yet, so much in our world makes sound! Learning to live in an environment where everything is silent can be painful.

I think that is why I chose the cochlear implant. It helps to keep me connected to the hearing world in which I was born. Almost everyone I know communicates through spoken word. Many of the things I enjoy the most make sound. I have reached the point in my “hearing loss journey”, that I readily accept changes in my hearing, choose to wear “bling” on my implant, and confidently put my faith in my hearing dog, Chloe! Hugs from this Vizsla darling are certainly a perk I enjoy!

I always look forward to the responses from my students about being “Deaf for a Day”. It is interesting to note, that many of the family members tend to be extremely frustrated and “ill” about the assignment. I had a mother once tell me that she “hoped I never repeated the assignment”, for it was “very frustrating trying to make conversation and make sure instructions were understood” to their hearing child gone “deaf”. After that conversation, I cried. You see, the whole point of the assignment was lost on this parent. At the end of the day… when the lights went out – the earplugs came out as well. In the morning their child woke up to their regular alarm clock, or “get out of bed NOW” reminder! (smile) What I want my students to learn… the lesson I hope they come away with… is how their world and relationships would change should they lose their own hearing. Certainly, the greater number of them will adapt, find help, and discover how very supportive their families are.

But hands off Chloe… grin! She’s mine!

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary

12 thoughts on “Deaf for a Day

  1. Interesting about the complaints of the students being UNABLE to be “totally deaf”. You tried everything to make it possible but it’s still “hard-of-hearing.” A question–did anyone try using earplugs and then put BOSE-style headphones covering the ears entirely on top of that?

    It’s good to know others have occasionally wished deafness on someone else. I’m not alone!

  2. The comments all have to be approved. I was gone most of the day yesterday so I did not have the opportunity to check the messages.

    I have had students “double up on” sound dampening tools. For example ear plugs + headphones, etc. Ear plugs are “cheap” so I feel like I can require it. The true noise-dampening headphones are more expensive so I have not felt like I could make that a requirement.

    Those who are “mostly deaf for a day”, do tend to get the best experience out of the day!

  3. As a follow up, I am surprised at how my students seemed to react this year. At least those “vocal” about the assignment have been fairly negative. It could be that those not saying anything at all are looking forward to the assignment and I’ll know more when I see them on Thursday?

  4. I think you mentioned somewhere on this blog that instead of getting verbal responses from the students on being “Deaf for a Day”, you decided to have them write their responses to turn in. Did you get anything interesting out of their written responses?

  5. Hey kakeil,

    Most of the students DID learn something positive I think. What was sad… was that several discovered parents and family members had NO SYMPATHY and made comments like, “ENOUGH of being DEAF!”, etc. Some of my students actually “worried on paper” to me about what it would mean should they ever develop a disability.

    I did have a couple of students who just didn’t get it though. One in particular actually said that I should have given them more notice. They had a WEEK to do the assignment. In “the real world” people don’t get to choose when they develop a hearing loss. I’ve met several who even lost it overnight.

    So, all in all I had a few “shallow minded” comments, but I think the vast majority of the class learned a great deal. Some of the positive responses were realizing the little things that went missing, “dog’s toenails clicking on the kitchen floor”, “cat’s purr”, the “squeak of the stairs as they climbed them to the 2nd floor”, “silverware ‘clanking’ at the dinner table”, etc. Several commented that they hadn’t tho’t about that things other than voices would “go”.


  6. hi where can you get these earplugs it would make a great science project for my daughter in 7th grade since her sister, (also my daughter in 9th grade) is deaf. can u tell me a website or something I’m in florida but willing to order. Thanks.

    1. Noise canceling earplugs are fairly easy to find thank goodness. I’ve purchased large containers of them at Walmart, Target, and pharmacies.

  7. I joined your blog today and I’m finding each article fascinating! I was late deafened too. I have had a severe hearing loss for 40 years that slowly to profound. I tried to “pretend” to be like everyone else in the hearing world. I did not learn sign so I was an excellent lip reader. But pretending to “hear” was totally frustrating so I became isolated. I finally convinced myself to get a cochlear implant in 2012 in one ear. I wear an ultra powerful hearing aid in the other ear. Wow, I couldn’t believe how much my world has opened up with a cochlear implant. I have missed so much. I am so blessed. Your students to have an assignment of “pretending” to be deaf for a day is not only a way to show them the frustration, anger, embarrassment, isolation and tears we who are deaf have gone through. Very interesting assignment. Keep up the good work!

  8. I think deaf for a day sounds like a good activity. Did the kids experience a normal day, or did you add any additional activities for them to do/accomplish?

    1. I did encourage them to go out to eat or go to at least one store. The goal wasn’t to sit at home all day on the day they chose to do this activity. Some students chose to meet up at the same location. This worked well too.

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